What It's Like To Struggle With Mental Health As A Black Woman
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Health and Wellness

As A First Generation, POC American, My Mental Illness Story Has Plenty Of Obstacles

Mental illness doesn't discriminate.

As A First Generation, POC American, My Mental Illness Story Has Plenty Of Obstacles

I heard it all the time after my first attempt of trying to speak up about my self-diagnosed depression to my mother.

"What reason do you have to be depressed?? Grow up, be happy, and help me cook dinner in the kitchen."

I mean, I don't blame her. Many people believe mental illness is a myth, and I get that. However, the one thing that made it even harder to talk about in my household was the cultural barrier.

My parents were both born in Haiti. So were their parents, and then my great-grandparents and so on. They decided to move to America together once they were adults and they conceived my brother in their early 30s. A few years later, I came around.

They were brought up on old customs. Christianity was saturated into everything they did and were basically taught to grow up at a young age. That explains why my brother and I received the same "parenting."

Don't get me wrong, they are amazing parents. I'm somewhat glad they brought me up the way they did. On the other hand, the one thing I wish they taught me (and themselves) was to be open-minded and talk about my feelings.

I wanted to tell someone how I felt. It was at a point where I couldn't handle the feelings that surfaced all by myself. Once the time came, I opened up to my mother, but she couldn't understand me. We were born in different countries, but we spoke the same language. And for some reason, she still didn't understand me.

I went on for another year, suffering in silence.

If I hadn't confessed to my guidance counselor two years ago about the way I'd been feeling, who knows where I'd be now.

My parents are learning about the world of mental illness now. They're not professionals (and I don't expect them to be), but I'm glad they're learning. They're not happy that their "baby girl" had to be mentally ill, but who would be? They're happy that I'm still alive, and that's all that matters.

When it comes to telling your loved ones about your mental illness, there will be many barricades. In every situation, there will be barbed wires made of anger, walls constructed by denial and/or disbelief, and doors fortified by tears. However, believe me when I tell you this — the demolition of these obstacles starts with three words that you will all need to get through it:

"It'll be OK."

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